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Innovation bringing water for all

As the cost-of-living crisis continues to impact many of our customers, innovation plays a vital role in identifying opportunities to provide better support, especially for those most vulnerable.

A cross-industry partnership driven by Southern Water and data experts Sagacity, has launched an innovative Water4All project, funded by Ofwat’s innovation fund. The project uses a cutting-edge approach to identify thousands of customers who may not know they’re entitled to different kinds of support. The funding for the project was awarded in June 2022 to develop a working model demonstrating the potential of this approach on a wider scale. 

This project, which has now passed its initial pilot phase, is intended to flag customers who are not already receiving help via our bill discount schemes but could be entitled to further support. So far, the model has already found that on average, over a fifth of pensioners in ‘severe financial difficulty’ are not receiving the benefits they are eligible for, suggesting this approach provides a significant opportunity to offer more support.  

As the initial test stage draws to a close, both Southern Water and Sagacity, with support from the water sector and wider industries, are preparing to present Ofwat with robust results. With the delivery model now successfully operational, planning for a stage 2 is underway which would see the implementation of an advanced solution to help optimise vital customer support services. 

The technology behind the project uses a range of data sources, such as age, household composition and income, to determine whether a customer is eligible for support. So far it has focused on 300,000 anonymised household records to see if people are claiming available support. For example, the model found 15,000 customers were potentially eligible for Pension Credit, but one in four didn’t claim it, and 63% were not claiming support with their water bills either. This finding is important, as customers who receive Pension Credit are also eligible for 45% off their Southern Water bills. 

In December, Southern Water announced it was boosting the minimum discount on bills offered to 104,000 households, from 20% to 45%, whilst adding another 21,000 households to that number, offering these customers at least an average annual saving of £200 on their water and wastewater bill. The support will also continue to help customers that are most in need, to access bill discounts of up to 90%.      

Rachel Ryan-Crisp, Head of Customer Services and Vulnerability Lead for Southern Water, said: “We are proud to be part of the consortium supporting Water4All and in taking a leading role to tackle this problem. With the cost-of-living spiralling, many people are struggling for the first time in their lives – and as we can see, not everybody knows help exists, or is comfortable claiming. While we do our very best to support all our vulnerable and low-income households, it is a challenge reaching everyone who is eligible for support. This is why this project has been so valuable in making sure nobody is left behind.” 

The project is now looking for funding to be able to develop even more targeted support, using data better   and developing a process to contact and help customers that works for individual customers.  

Want to learn more about the Bluewave team or have an innovation solution you’d like to discuss? Drop us a message at bluewave@southernwater.co.uk